Review: Vinhos: Deluxe Edition (2010 Reserve + Expansions)

vinhos-5985Designer: Vital Lacerda
Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
Category: Economic, Industry / Manufacturing
Players: 1-4
Price: $129.99 Amazon
The Deluxe Edition of Vinhos shipped with both the board and ruleset for playing the original 2010 Reserve rules, as well as a more streamlined 2016 Vintage ruleset. In addition, backers were able to add stretch goals to their pledge, which granted access to four different expansions, including visual upgrades, new rules, and lots of re-playability.
In total, this is what comes packed in the box:
  • 2010 Reserve Edition
  • 2016 Vintage Edition
  • Solo player rules
  • Connoisser Expansion
  • Experts Expansion
  • Islands Expansion
  • Tasting Room Expansion
I’ve already covered the original game in this post, so now I’d like to hop around through the various expansions of Vinhos: Deluxe Edition, letting you know what’s worth your time, and what’s a little weird.

vinhos-5974

Content Guide

The game is focused on the business of winemaking. It is an exhaustive title that celebrates the sometimes minute differences in wine, based on location and style of grape. If you personally abstain from alcohol, I’m not sure this game would have any sort of negative impact on your conscious for playing.

vinhos-5978

2010 Reserve Edition Rules

Rules differences between the original 2010 Reserve Edition and the new 2016 Vintage Edition are not hugely different. That said, the Reserve Edition does utilize mechanics not present in the Vintage Edition. There are a few different components used in this edition not found in the Vintage as well.
Before jumping in, I think it worthy to note even though purists might drift closer to the original, more complex 2010 rules, the 2016 Vintage rules provide a streamlined Vinhos experience. While I do enjoy complexity in gaming, I’d rather enjoy a game that feels more complete due to a designer mulling over his design for years, recognizing which mechanics need fine-tuning, and which ones need to go.
A look at the 2010 board. (Photo Courtesy BoardGameGeek)

A look at the 2010 board. (Photo Courtesy of BoardGameGeek)

In this regard, Lacerda himself types in a BoardGameGeek thread from earlier this year, correcting a user on his take of the revised 2016 rules. The 2016 Vinhos experience is anything but easier. Instead, it is a more refined, perfected ruleset for the game, highlighting the many challenging scenarios Vinhos provides, while staying true to what makes Vinhos so palatable for the euro-minded gamer. When asked why he (and his play-testers) prefer the 2016 rules over the original, Lacerda responds, “because it [2016 Vintage] is a better game.”
Diving in, game setup is relatively the same as the Vintage game, although players can choose between the four or five estate tableau. Now, alongside the fair are “feature markers,” which move spaces according to that year’s vintage tile. The oenologists return in this version, but cost only a single bago to purchase, which is wonderful. The drawback? You must pay them a bago every year to pay their salaries. On the topic of money, when selling/exporting barrels, they now must be returned to your board in pairs, as opposed to singularity.
The Banco Do Vinho (Photo courtesy of Eagle-Gryphon Games)

The Banco Do Vinho (Photo courtesy of Eagle-Gryphon Games)

Of course, the biggest change from the revised ruleset is the inclusion of the bank, or Banco do Vinho. Upon choosing this action, players must withdraw, deposit, or invest into their bank accounts. Instead of instant money through sales or other methods, all received cash is immediately dumped into the corresponding player’s accounts. Players must take the bank action in order to receive new cash for their actions. Being a sort of two-tiered system, players must manage their investments, because in each round players will either receive extra bagos for being wise investors or lose bagos due to divesting or poor investments.
I find the balance of the bank to be a necessary evil. This is one way the 2016 ruleset succeeds the 2010. Not to say visiting the bank is a waste of time, but it certainly becomes second nature to your game. It feels surreal, the impending need to revisit the same space, likely on the same turns as others, as you not only dish out money for more investments, but to opposing players as well. I do think the up and down of your account marker adds more suspense and stress than solely relying on your thick bago tiles to mentally acknowledge your desperate need for more cash.
Differences between both rules' wine fairs. (Photo Courtesy BoardGameGeek)

Differences between both rules’ wine fairs. (Photo Courtesy of BoardGameGeek)

Another large change is the submitting of wine to the fair, as well as the fair itself. I think it’s tedious to describe the steps here, but ultimately the strength of your submitted wine doesn’t matter as much, but for a few extra points. Now, players must focus on capturing wine experts, as well as pleasing the magnates, in order to manipulate the feature markers, granting potentially many extra fair points, based on how the player gamed the system. The magnates themselves become the magnate action and multiplier tiles, where players jockey for specific end game bonuses, using barrels to activate them.
While I think I would have enjoyed the original 2010 edition of Vinhos, my background in the 2016 edition overtakes its predecessor.
Vinhos is quite good with the previous rules and board setup, but now feels exceptional as a streamlined 2016 version of the game. Granted, there are many paths to victory in the Reserve, although the game cajoles me to forcibly visit the bank. Of course, I must oblige, so I do. Then I go to spend more hard-earned cash to prepare for the next few years. Then I need to return to the bank for a couple more bagos for my pocket.
It’s not until you wisely invest that the maintenance phase literally pays off, but by then, I’m already dreaming of the bountiful vineyards I’ve established in multiple estates from my last Vintage Edition game.
Yes, the Vintage ruleset is indeed superior. I can see those with penchant for tedious mental gymnastics to find a liking for the original gameplay. It really isn’t an awful game, I just realize the huge benefits and enhancements to a new version that strips off the nasty, and doesn’t punish you for playing.

reserve-board


Author’s Note: I have only tested these expansion modules with the 2016 Vintage Edition rules. I have not played any of them with the 2010 Reserve Edition rules (aside from the visual upgrade of wine feature bottles). These likely have a different impact on 2010 Reserve Edition gameplay, but I cannot speak to those differences.

conno-labelConnoisseur Expansion

The Connoisseur Expansion includes the following components:
  • Weather (1 tile)
  • Wineries (4 double-sized tiles)
  • Vineyards (4 double-sized tiles)
  • Cellars (4 double-sized tiles)
  • Ocean Tiles (4 large tiles)
This expansion is packed full of new ways to increase the livelihood and value of your wines. Each player is allowed one double-sized tile of each type, and can purchase it, usually at the cost of one less bago than it would cost to purchase two individual tiles. This could be advantageous because it costs less, or also to increase the production quality of a single vineyard, which is much quicker than to spend two turns attempting to do the same.
When placing a double-sized winery or vineyard, however, you can only place one farmer, or one oenologist on that tile. Double-sized cellars cannot accept any tourists (which we will talk about soon).  These larger cellars are considered “super secret” and all value modifiers are increased by one point.
The included weather tile is a doozy. This nasty critter will release an awful plague of insects on all players’ vineyard, completely annihilating all wine production for that year.
conno-piecesFinally, the ocean tiles are purely aesthetic, and are used to cover up unused vineyard locations in the game. This typically only happens in lower player count games.
Overall, I found this expansion to be situational. I appreciate the bonus value points on the cellar tiles, but I didn’t necessarily need them. It’s only one point, and the tile itself costs 6 bagos, instead of the regular 3 bagos. The double wineries seemed most useless to me. The entire purpose of wineries is to stock them full of oenologists. Without that possibility, I’m simply adding an overpriced waste of space when I’m probably better off just purchasing another vineyard in my estate.
The most interesting bit of this expansion is easily the weather tile. You don’t realize how necessary the production and distribution of wine is to your business until you don’t have any. Meanwhile, more prepared players are surviving, even though stilted. I spent my entire first year spending every bago I owned on multiple wineries and vineyards, stocked full of oenologists and cellars. I was set. Then, disaster struck. The bugs hit, and Katie and I had no chance for income.
The weather tile, randomly distributed into the many possible weather tiles, is a real game changer. Thematically, it totally works, because the magnates of the wine world will literally accept any strength, color, and region of wine because of the international shortage. I like this one quite a bit.

Experts Expansiexpertson

The Experts Expansion includes the following components:
  • Advertisers and Marketers Experts (8 tiles)
  • Salesmen Specialists (4 tiles)
  • Spies Specialists (4 tiles)
  • Meteorologists Experts (4 tiles)
  • Reviewers Experts (4 tiles)
  • Estate Experts (4 tiles)
  • Public Relations Experts (4 tiles)
The new experts have a few different ways they can be shuffled into the game, via existing wine experts, or in totally new stacks, featuring only these newcomers.
These experts can do lots of things, like switching vineyards to new estates, peeking at the upcoming weather tile, using an opposing player’s expert tile, and much more.
Texperts-pieceshese actions didn’t feel game changing, although the ability to use someone else’s expert was nice, especially to grab extra fair points or a few more bagos.
One tile allows you to take a new expert, by switching itself out with one of the four purchasable experts available. This seemed mostly trivial and extremely situational. I can’t think of many moments during the game where I would really need to buy an expert for the purpose of taking a different one on a later turn.
Since I didn’t find the original wine experts to be overly game-changing, despite a few, I think these tiles continue the trend of being situational. At the very least, these add complexity and more options for players, which is usually a good thing.

deluxe-islandsIslands Expansion

The Islands Expansion includes the following components:
  • Madeira Expansion (small board; 4 tiles and 4 tourist meeples)
  • Açores Expansion (small board; 4 tiles; 4 larger warehouse tiles; 4 barrels)
The Madeira Expansion adds the island of Madeira. This becomes a new area to purchase vineyards in. It not only feeds you an extra bago during production every year, but it also introduces tourists into the game. Costing a hefty $6, you will be able to place a tourist into your estate. Once you purchase a cellar, they move into the cellar, increasing the value of whatever wine you sell, present, or ship by +1. I like this, although I didn’t focus on tourists in my last game.
The Açores Archipelago is another vineyard/estate expansion that grants the owning player an extra warehouse tile with three slots. Once a wine hits the third slot, the player may choose to immediately ship that wine internationally for points, using the provided extra barrel.
I imagine this free shipping action can be helpful, although when I was excited to ship my wine, we were hit by the insect infestation, and I had no wine to produce or age. It was a nasty time. If players need more ways to ship, and are able to produce enough in the Açores region, this could be a very worthwhile location.

dexlue-tastingTasting Room Expansion

The Tasting Room Expansion includes the following components:
  • Wine Feature Bottles (4)
  • Porto Bottles (6)
  • Wine Rack (1)
  • Tourist Meeples (8)
  • Wooden Wineries (19)
This last expansion is mostly aesthetic, but does include tourists, like the Açores expansion. During setup, you may replace the farmer/oenologist action space with a new space that allows purchase of farmers, oenologists, and tourists. Tourists cost $2. I didn’t have much time or money focused on tourists, but the advantage of what sums up to essentially an eternal renown cube seems quite worthwhile.
On the artistic side of things, I love the component upgrades.
deluxe-tasting-room-from-meThe Porto bottles replace the tiles on the Duro region, where players will now spend slender black bottles instead of those purple tiles. These bottles are stacked nicely on a three slot wine rack. Love these.
The wooden wineries can either replace the winery tiles or just sit on top of them. They are huge and chunky and prominent. It’s nice to stack these all over your estates, and are good visual representations of who is over-producing their wines.
Finally, the wine feature bottles add an eccentric upgrade for the 2010 Reserve Edition game.
While a little strange to include tourists with visual upgrades, I find higher quality bits to add a lot to the games I play. This is no exception, and it’s quite good.

Final Thoughts on Expansions

All of these expansions truly feel like an extension of Vinhos. They don’t feel like some weird zombie nightmare addendum to a western renegade title, and there aren’t any strange or overpowered add-ons to the game.
deluxe-islands-from-meAside from the nice component upgrades, I didn’t feel particularly drawn to any expansion module in particular. They all feel moderate. Nothing was over the top or even essential to the game. It’s just another method to growing your business—not a better way, just another way.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I can see it feeling a bit monotonous, as that’s precisely how I felt playing it. One big issue with a plethora of new options without fully understanding the reasons for each one is expansion overload.
I think Vinhos players will benefit from either introducing expansions one at a time, or being reasonably selective when deciding which ones to include.
Of course, the one component that added the most visible difference to our game was the infestation weather tile. This completely halted wine production, and left us stuck for a year. What I find most fascinating is no matter how prepared you are, and no matter what time of year it hits, the outcome will provide an entirely different challenge.
Were you banking on money from wine sales in order to grow your business? Too bad. Were you relying on some end game points from powerful wines at the end of the game, now that you’ve finally bought the buildings you need? No one cares. Here’s some bugs. This is an evil, yet necessary expansion that I love and hate.
I think the expansions are nice, but I think you can also get a lot of game out of just regular Vinhos. Both versions of the game provide a lot of different avenues for re-playability, but I can see the advantage to picking up these stretch goals.

The Bottom Line

Out with the old and in with the new. The 2016 rules are just better than the old way to play Vinhos. Furthermore, the expansions are neat, and add more to the game. Unless you want more to a game that's already got a lot to it, I don't see any need to rush out and buy these expansion modules.

 

8.4